Although Casals was now a world traveler, and had lived for years in other cities, Barcelona was near and dear to his heart. He had been born only a short distance from beautiful, historic Barcelona, and had moved there while still a young boy. Barcelona was Casal's "hometown." During the first World War he lived in New York City, but returned to Barcelona in 1919.
Barcelona Waterfront, 1870
Barcelona is a city with personality, and a long history. It is the second largest city in Spain, and very prosperous, being also the busiest port and an industrial center. The geographical site is beautiful, with the blue Mediterranean Sea on one side, and scenic mountains on the other. The weather can be warm in August, and cool in January, however the temperatures are moderated by the sea and the protection of the mountains. Rainfall is adequate (22 inches per year), but most days are bright and sunny.
Two thousand years ago Barcelona already existed, was known as Barcino, and was ruled by the Romans. A number of interesting Roman ruins can still be seen there, including a temple, a towers, walls, aqueducts and mosaics. Since then Barcelona has been ruled by many invaders, such as the Visigoths, Arabs. Franks, and Moors. In the eighteenth century Barcelona became an industrial center. The first factory was built in 1746, and trade with the United States began as early as 1778, only two years after the Declaration of Independence.
As the working class became established in Barcelona, the people of that area leaned increasingly toward a revolutionary socialism (which was also reflected in the political philosophy of Pablo Casals, of which more shall be written later). There also arose an ugly prejudice against the Roman Catholic Church, which sometimes erupted in acts of violence. For example, in 1909 the citizens burned sixty churches in Barcelona, including the Church of San Antonio Abad, an important architectural and ecclesiastical structure. In 1917 there was a general strike that devastated the city, and could only be brought to an end with bloodshed.
Barcelona today is a modern city, with substantial cultural advantages. The city has a population of approximately two million, and is a famous tourist stop for foreigners traveling in Spain. It was to Barcelona that Casals returned in 1919, to found his own orchestra, which became known as the "Orquestra Pablo Casals."
Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John
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